Somebody (Else) Should do Something

Of major cities in the United States, Houston is always among the leaders in the affordability of housing. Yet, the Chronicle, frequently eager to bash the city, notes that

a report last fall from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas pointed out, Houston homeowners are the most cost-burdened in the state, with more than 10 percent in Harris County spending more than 50 percent of their incomes on housing.

Interestingly, the paper tells us nothing about other Texas cities. Instead, it simply complains that low-income and middle-class residents are finding it difficult to afford housing in the city.

The editorial goes on to suggest remedies at both the state and federal level, such as more tax credits for “affordable” housing. On the local level, the paper says that

we hope to see an affordable housing policy from the mayor’s office sometime soon.

Nowhere in the editorial is the reason for rising housing costs addressed. The paper ignores the plethora of land-use regulations that have been enacted over the past four decades and the well-documented consequences of such regulations. Of course, to raise that point would mean that the Chronicle would have to reverse it position on a multitude of issues.

Like typical statists, the paper’s editorial board wants to have your cake and eat it too. They want low housing prices for everyone, but they also want the land-use regulations that drive housing costs up. What they want is simply not possible. At least, not in the real world.

The Chronicle wants Washington and Austin to fix the problems that are largely a result of local policies. But rather than question those policies, the paper hopes that somebody else will somehow provide a magic solution.

Developers aren’t building “affordable” housing because it doesn’t make economic sense for them to do so. It doesn’t make sense partly because of rising land values, particularly inside The Loop, and partly because of city regulations. The city could help the situation by repealing those regulations, but instead the paper wants to offer tax credits to developers to build what and where the city wants. Rather than call for an end to the government imposed barriers, the paper would have the government offer enticements.

This is just another example of government intervention creating new problems. And once again, the proposed solution is another government program.

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